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November 12, 2015

Technology Corner: PeopleSoft goes mobile


A decade or so ago, Pitt faculty completed their grading process with a No. 2 pencil and a trip to their department secretary — or, if they waited till the last minute, a hurried trip to Thackeray Hall.

Today, instructors can submit grades from their personal computers or even their phones. No pencils, no bubble sheets, no need to be on campus.
PeopleSoft Campus Solutions

In 2005, after a multi-year project involving a number of functional and academic areas at the University, Pitt adopted PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and moved from a mainframe system (ISIS) to today’s online student information system. Authorized University staff now use the system to manage the entire student-data lifecycle, from admissions to student services through graduation, in a centrally maintained and secure environment that provides web-based access from any location.

Pitt’s PeopleSoft system is the system of record for student information at the University. Faculty most frequently use the PeopleSoft system to input class grades and check class rosters and class schedules. Students typically search for classes through PeopleSoft, enroll in classes, add/drop, check their midterm and final grades, and check their class schedules and transcripts. On an average day there are over 30,000 logins to the PeopleSoft system —and on a very busy day the system approaches 100,000 logins.
Powerful and complex, but….

PeopleSoft is a complex system, consisting of a number of integrated modules such as Campus Community (biographical and demographic data), Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Records, Student Financials and Academic Advising. PeopleSoft also needs to interface with more than a dozen other systems. While this synchronized complexity is the unique strength of PeopleSoft as a student information system, it also means that the system is not easily customizable.

Various constituencies at Pitt have suggested customizations that could improve the value of the system for its users here. A review process is in place; representatives from Admissions and Financial Aid, Student Financial Services, or the Registrar’s Office prepare a fit-gap document that outlines the problem that they are trying to solve and its proposed solutions. These solutions may include turning on new functionality or customizing the system to add functionality that is not provided by the vendor. Each request is carefully reviewed, taking into consideration the benefit of the change and the ongoing cost to support it.

Enter PeopleSoft Mobile

PeopleSoft’s well-earned reputation for power and complexity, however, has not translated into a reputation for a friendly user interface.

And so we have begun offering access to PeopleSoft’s self-service features through an interface called PeopleSoft Mobile or Pitt PS Mobile. PeopleSoft Mobile provides access to such features as grades, registration and class schedules, regardless of the device that faculty or students are using. A faculty member who wants to enter grades from his/her desktop or laptop can use Pitt PS Mobile now and should find that experience much more user-friendly. Pitt PS Mobile also can be accessed from a smartphone or other mobile device via the web browser, and a mobile app also is available in the Pitt app store for iOS (iPhone/ iPad) and Android (

Some features of Pitt PS Mobile are available publicly. Specifically, the app allows people who have not logged in with Pitt credentials to access the course catalog or search for classes against the University’s live schedule of classes. Class search has been improved with the new interface provided by Pitt PS Mobile, with dynamic search results based on selected search options such as campus, subject and class time range. When using this live schedule of classes, the availability of seats in the class will be visible and classroom locations can be seen on a campus map.

People with Pitt credentials have access to additional, secured information. Students have full access to their class schedule and grades, for instance, as well as any holds on their account, and their “To Do” items. Faculty have access to class and grade rosters, for instance, and advisers can view their advisees’ information.
Feedback welcome

CSSD and the Office of the Registrar held faculty focus group meetings last year to get input into how the system could be improved. Those focus groups are continuing this fall, and I hope all interested faculty will attend. Participants have appreciated the informal but attentive atmosphere — and the cookies.

A faculty focus group meeting will be held Nov. 13, 1-3 p.m., in 717 Cathedral of Learning. Stay for all or part of that time.

If you’d like to attend, please contact me at

Dwight Helfrich is the director of systems engineering in CSSD.

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